Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Family Vacation – Part II

So, at the end of Part I, Mom and Dad were heading down south to Venice while I was going back to Vienna for a few days of classes. It was nice to get a chance to relax before resuming my ‘tour guide’ duties. I really wanted to make sure that Mom and Dad had a memorable trip, but I didn’t realize how much work it would be to organize all the logistics.

On Friday (28.11.2005), I headed to Salzburg to meet Mom and Dad. On the way there, I took a detour to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp near Linz. The concentration camp is located next to the Weiner Graben Rock Quarry, which is where the prisoners were forced to work. The entrance to the quarry is a steep stone road and 186 steps leading to the bottom of the quarry. These steps were known as the “Stairs of Death.” The concentration camp was smaller than I thought it would be, but still a very overwhelming place. As I continue to visit different concentration camps, it continues to amaze me that these seemingly tranquil places were once the scene of such horrible atrocities. Even though I am able to see the remnants of them, it is still difficult for me to imagine and understand what actually occurred there.

After my visit to Mauthausen, I continued on towards Salzburg. I checked into the hotel and watched a little TV (CNN International – TV is a luxury that Lara and I don’t have right now). I headed back to the train station to find some food and write a few postcards while I waited for the train from Venice. It was a rather long wait (about three hours), so I got to do quite a bit of people watching. The train station in Salzburg wasn’t as interesting as the one in Prague, but I still managed to entertain myself and stay out of trouble. Mom and Dad arrived at 9 pm and we headed back to the hotel. They had brought a bottle of Chianti from Venice, so we stayed up late drinking wine and talking about what they had been doing.


On Saturday (29.11.2005), we got up early and headed into the historic section of Salzburg. When Patti (Lara’s friend) visited us in September/October, she had gone to Salzburg for a day and taken a “Sound of Music” tour. She had really enjoyed it because you got to see a lot of the countryside and some of the places that the movie was filmed. So, after talking to her about it, I decided that I wanted to go on one, too. I found a really good tour company listed in my guidebook, so I convinced Mom to sign up for it with me. Since it was foggy this morning, we went to the tour office first and signed up before beginning our tour of the city. After that, we decided to visit the cathedral because it was still too foggy to see the city. The cathedral was beautiful! I am constantly amazed by the fact that I can see so many different churches and cathedrals, and no two look the same. Every time, I think that there cannot possibly be a more impressive one, but there always is. After visiting the cathedral, we came back outside and the fog was gone! So, we walked about the historic part of the city and saw many interesting sights – the Glockenspiel with 35 17th century bells, St. Peter’s cemetery (which was the model for the graveyard scenes in the “Sound of Music”, Mozart’s birthplace and the town horse bath (a big pond in a square that basically functioned as a car wash for horses). We also found a market in the University Square. Since it was Saturday, there were many vendors selling everything from vegetables and fresh meat to candy and clothing. We got lunch at the market (hot dogs and a krapfen brezel – an Austrian donut shaped like a huge pretzel). After lunch, Mom and I split off from Dad and did some shopping before we headed to the tour office for our “Sound of Music” tour at 2 pm.When we started the tour, I wondered if it would be cheesy, but it actually turned out to be very good. We did see some of the sights (the house that was used for the back side of the movie house, the Glass Pavilion, and the church where the wedding was held) but we were also able to see a lot of great scenery as we drove around the Lake District. We even drove through the mountains and stopped to take pictures of a steep gorge. Part of the tour included stopping for coffee and cake at a café, and seeing the headquarters for Red Bull. Apparently, the owner of Red Bull wanted to build his company headquarters on the lake, but the city officials would not let him. So, he built the headquarters and had a man-made lake put around this, so the building is on a lake.I also learned some interesting facts about the Sound of Music, and I figured that I would share some of them with you.

  • Two separate houses were used to film the house in the movie. The house that was used for the back side of the film house really is on a lake, but there are not steps leading from the pavilion into the lake (like there are in the movie). Also, when they were filming the scene where the canoe tips over, the littlest girl in the movie (Gretel) was afraid of the water, so they had divers in the water to help her. Unfortunately, when they filmed the scene, the boat tipped over the wrong way, so they couldn’t really help her that much.
  • The Glass Pavilion scenes were filmed using two different structures. One of them is the real Glass Pavilion (in Salzburg) and the other was a prop made for the movie. The movie prop did not have any windows in it so that the actors could swing around the columns during their dance sequences.
  • The church that the wedding was filmed in is much smaller than it appears in the movie. Apparently, when they were filming those scenes, Julie Andrews had to be filmed coming down the aisle four different times, and then the pieces of film were spliced together to create the look of the long aisle in the church. Also, the abbey for the nuns was not connected to the church (it is actually located in a different town all together) so the scene where the nuns let Maria out of the abbey through the gate was filmed in two different locations as well.
Dad met us at the end of our tour, and we headed to dinner. He had scouted out a couple of restaurants while we were on the tour (that was part of the ‘to do’ list that we gave him). After dinner, we wandered back through the Old Town to our hotel and enjoyed some Sacher Torte and wine while we watched the news.

On Sunday (30.11.2005), we got up and packed all of our bags to check out of the hotel. Before breakfast, we walked up to the train station to see if there were lockers so that we could store our luggage until our train left. I had heard that Daylight Savings Time was supposed to occur that day, so we happened to check the clocks at the train station – and they had been turned back an hour! I’m glad that we checked so that we were able to take our time checking out of the hotel and eating breakfast.

After checking out of the hotel and storing our luggage at the train station, we headed towards the Hohensalzburg Fortress above the town. On the way, we stopped at the Mirabell Gardens to take a couple of pictures. Schloss Mirabell is a huge house that the Prince-Archbishop built for his mistress and their 15 children in the 17th century. The Catholic Church did not take kindly to him having a mistress and 16 children, so he was forced to resign and imprisoned in the Hohensalzburg Fortress until his death. The Mirabell Gardens are famous (because they were used in the “Sound of Music” and they are beautiful, too. One interesting section of the garden is the Dwarf Garden, which has different statues of dwarves doing different tasks. We even managed to find the dwarf that was sticking his tongue out! We continued through town towards the fortress and took the funicular up to the top of the hill that it sits on. (Mom really liked watching the funiculars go up and down the hill, so I took this picture for her.) The fortress was interesting (although not as impressive as Prague Castle) and we enjoyed seeing it. Dad and I took some great pictures of Salzburg from the top of the fortress. After that, we headed back to the train station to collect our bags and take the train to Vienna. When we got back to Vienna, I made dinner (a smorgasbord of meat, cheese, bread, fruit, and wine) and did a couple of loads of laundry for Mom and Dad. Then, I took them back to their hotel (I’m such a good daughter!) and made sure they got checked in and settled for the night.


Mom and Dad spent the last few days of their trip in Vienna. On Monday (31.11.2005), we toured the Hofburg. This is the palace that the Habsburgs lived in during the winter months. The tour consisted of seeing the Royal Porcelain and Silver Collection (very impressive – and I was glad I didn’t have to polish all of that silver), the Sisi Museum (about Franz Josef’s wife, Empress Elizabeth), and the Imperial Apartments. One of the interesting displays that we saw in the Porcelain and Silver Collection was the Imperial Napkin Fold. Apparently, it is a closely guarded secret that only two people in the world know.We sat down to eat lunch (leftovers from last night’s dinner) on a bench near the Hofburg, and we had an uninvited guest try to join us. A dog came over and kept sniffing at our food and trying to get some of it. Fortunately, we were able to keep it away from the food, but I can say that I am glad I don’t have to guard my food that closely for all of my meals – it definitely takes away from being able to enjoy your food! After lunch, we toured the Schatzkammer, which is the Royal Treasury. Some of the impressive pieces that we saw included the Holy Roman Empire Crown and the Chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece. The next stop for the day was Paolo Bortelolli’s – where you can get the best gelato in Vienna (in my opinion, anyways). We ate gelato and walked around for a little bit before heading back to their hotel. I didn’t eat dinner with them that night, but I heard that they had a good meal.

Tuesday (01.11.2005) was All Saint’s Day, so a lot of the attractions in the city were closed. I also did not have class because the university was closed, so I was able to spend the whole day with Mom and Dad. We went to the Lipizzaner Museum to see the history of the famous Spanische Hofreitschule. After that, we walked around the 1st District for a while until Dad suggested that we could “go to Starbucks and get some real coffee” while we were waiting to tour the Stephansdom. My mouth dropped open when I heard that! (Dad won’t touch Starbucks at home, but I think he was missing American coffee.) That’s where we ended up though, and it was nice to sit down and have a cup of coffee in a warm place (it was cold outside). We went back to the Stephansdom at 3 pm, but they weren’t giving tours that day (since it was All Saint’s Day), so we just wandered around and looked at the church. It is very impressive, just like all of the other churches that I have seen. We parted ways for a while after the Stephansdom, and then Lara and I met back up with them later for dinner. Dad had found a little Italian restaurant on Floriangasse, so we went there and had a wonderful meal. After dinner, we walked to the Hotel Sacher and had the original Sachertorte and apple strudel for dessert. Lara was so nice to us – she picked up the bill for dessert (although Mom and Dad did protest a lot about it).


Wednesday (02.11.2005) was the last day before Mom and Dad left to go home. We decided to go to Bratislava (just over the border in Slovakia) for the day. We took the train and got to town around 10 am. Unfortunately, we did not arrive in the main train station, so we had to figure out how to take the bus to the town center. It was an adventure, but we eventually got there. I’m just glad that Lara had let me borrow her map so that we knew where we were going (sort of…). Bratislava is a cute little town, and our first stop was at Schokolade Maximilian (a place where Lara had told us to go). We had chocolate fondue with whipped cream and sugar wafers – it was really yummy, and hopefully Lara and I can go back there one more time before we leave. We wandered around the town for a couple of hours and had lunch at a place called Lebowski before catching the bus back to the train station. Overall, I enjoyed the trip to Bratislava. It is a cute little town, and I think it will start to become the “Prague of Slovakia” over the next few years. When we got back from Bratislava, I headed back to my room to grab my computer. Dad had brought a CD-Rom with him on the trip so that he could have a copy of all of my pictures before he left. We went to dinner at the same Italian place that we went to on Tuesday night, and it was just as good the second time around. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for a glass of wine. I said good-bye to Mom and Dad (yes, I did cry a little bit) and went home. They were leaving early the next morning to get to the airport and catch their flight.Well, this is the end of our family vacation. We all had a wonderful time, and I’m so glad that Mom and Dad could come over to visit me for a while this semester. If you would like to see additional pictures of our family travels, click on “Andria’s Travel Photos” and look in the folder labeled The Family Vacation.



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